tv [untitled] March 4, 2012 12:30pm-1:00pm PST
relationships and close ties with departments and supervisors. in my letter, i gave the example of a community activist who has brought essentially ready-made legislation to supervisors in the past to solve a community problem. it's very common thing in city hall. it's encouraged, it's part of the democratic process and people work with supervisors and departments all the time to solve issues that are confronting their neighborhoods, their communities, transportation, land use, anything, you name it. that's the type of situation or person that the commission has to decide, i'm distinguishable from, because those people have influence and influence is a common part of city hall -- the city hall world and any other governmental environment, as i say, it's part of the democratic process. you have to decide i'm distinguishable from all those groups because of my 10 months of experience working in a
supervisor's office on relatively low-level matters and without a lot of political background. i can imagine that there would be reasonable concern about undue influence or unfair advantage in my circumstance were it to be the case that supervisor mirkarimi were still a supervisor and i had worked for him and i had left and there was potential that i would come back and talk to him because he was still a supervisor. i can imagine reasonable concern if supervisor mirkarimi had been elected mayor or senator or some high-level powerful political position where, when i went to communicate with departments or commissions or aides in the future, they might believe that i had a close relationship with him and wanted to stay on his good side. i also can imagine there being a situation where i worked closely with a supervisor who's currently on the board that is still pending.
and that i could communicate with them on that matter. none of these situations exist. now, since i wrote you my letter, in the addendum, i've been giving it more thought. after thinking about it, i imagine there could still be a concern that if i communicated with the sheriff's department, there could be potential for undue influence and unfair advantage because i worked directly with supervisor mirkarimi on a number of matters and so i would urge you to consider, rather than a complete broad ban, carving out an exception and banning me from communicating with the sheriff's department by giving me a waiver for the other departments. i urge you to think about that if you want to continue this and think about it or think about it tonight, it's up to you, but i
hadn't mentioned it in my correspondence and i think it's something you should consider because that's an instance where i believe there could be reasonable concern about undue influence or unfair advantage. the ethics staff wrote you a letter saying they didn't believe there were enough facts to make a recommendation. i think there are situations in which undue influence and unfair advantage could exist and i think the facts would show them but the reality is, the facts show that this is not one of those situations. so, with that, i'll conclude. i'm happy to answer any questions you may have about my experience, my 10 months as a legislative aide or anything else. i also have asked a gentleman to come and speak today, joe boss, who i've asked to come and speak because i've known him in a number of contexts from the time i was a reporter to some of my
time working at city hall, to provide another person who can give you context about city hall and thou functions. i don't want you to get this just from the person who has a vested interest in the outcome of your review. so i asked joe, who is involved with the dog patch neighborhood association, the patarot boosters, has been on the power plant task force and has done many things with city hall and in ways is representative of the time of person i described, the community advocate, the involved person who, at city hall, would have some level of influence or advantage and, as i mentioned, you have to sort of be reviewing my level of influence or advantage against people like that. so i asked joe to seek about his view of the context of city hall and city government. so. chairperson hur: mr. selna, thanks for your comments. perhaps we can have mr. boss
speak during public comment and if we have questions for him, we can address those but while we have you, if commissioners have questions for you, you can answer them now. commissioner liu? commissioner liu: thank you, mr. selna, for something today. i definitely do understand that you need certainty in pursuing your job. i think what i am struggling with here is that in order to make a decision on a waiver, which we take seriously and don't want to grant lightly, is normally i feel like i would need to know what are the anticipated communications and i know that you've tried to address that as best you can, not knowing where you might land. so that is the difficulty i'm having, is that it's hard to know what would be undue influence or what your involvement may or may not be if we don't know what you
anticipate your communications might be or the nature of those communications with the city during this next year and so that's what i'm having some difficulty with and i suppose, you know, related to that, we could ask you questions such as you say in your background that you have -- that you're pursuing or you're looking at real estate or land use type work, is that correct? or did i misread that? >> i didn't say that specifically. i was looking for that kind of work. i am seeking full-time work with a city agency still and i'm seeking contract work if i can find it, that might include representing clients to the media, and might include representing them to the city. it would be the kind of public affairs work where people need to understand how city functions in a particular way and what the
rules and procedures are and sort of what outreach is necessaries to get things into the right place and give them the context for a project going before city hall or a set of ideas or businesses or goals they may have. so, a particular subject matter area is not really particularly -- i'm not seeking a particular subject matter area. i mentioned in my letter that i had potential for work, potential for contract work for the fort mason center which has in mind an effort to try to extend the f-line, the historic f-line train from the center of fisherman's wharf down to fort mason because there's track and a long history of a desire to do that so the fort mason center needs things like outreach to the community and it needs help with their website and creating
a petition and help with generating positive media around the effort and potentially help with knowing what's going to with the park service environmental review and potentially knowing where the m.t.a. is prioritizing the funding for the project in its range of things it funds. so that's an example. and as part of that, as i described, it's very difficult, because as part of that, they might need me to communicate with a department, a commission, a representative, and so forth, on their behalf, related to a government decision. so that's the conundrum i'm in. i understand the struggle you're confronting, but i think the type of communication, that's why i was trying to emphasize the specific type of communication, i don't think is
really at issue, and it's whether any communication would provide potential for undue influence or unfair advantage given all the categories of people who are, on a regular basis, in a position where they have some level of influence or advantage because of their relationships with city hall and that's what i was trying to get you to focus on that rash -- rather than the unknown type of communication. there's not too broad a range of communications it could be. so, and that's also why i recommended that you consider maintaining the ban on my communication with the sheriff's department because that's an obvious relationship i've had and the rest of the work i would do, i don't think presents any potential given what i've described. commissioner liu: well, so, the other point that i understand you're making is that the legislation or whatever you
worked on with supervisor mirkarimi is completed. >> yes. commissioner liu: but, i guess i would be looking at the next step. certainly there are effects of legislation or just because something was passed or not passed doesn't mean there couldn't be something down the pike that a group later on wants you to help them navigate related to what you worked on while you were with supervisor mirkarimi. >> ok, let's take that instance. let's say that instance occurs, is that going to give me any more influence than somebody who has brought other legislation to another supervisor over the years or contributed to their campaign or worked as a fundraiser for them or is a constituent they've worked with for eight years? that's my point. because you're a legislative aide for 10 months, which is all
i was, and the types of relationships and understanding of how things work i could develop in 10 months, there's not a possibility i would have undue influence. i'm not saying people wouldn't listen to me. i'm not saying i wouldn't have some advantage because i might know somebody's name or phone number. the question you have to decide is whether that's undue influence and whether i'm distinguish frable from all those other categories of people who had relationships with departments and who worked on legislation before. that's the test. it's not whether a legislative aide would not have any influence at all, that's not the question. commissioner liu: well, so, i mean, i think you sort of made that point that anything we'd be looking at is basically a hypothetical, it's just speculative. >> it's not speculative because.
chairperson hur: if you could let commissioner liu finish. >> i'm sorry. commissioner liu: thank you. to me, it seems premature and i would -- i would want to know a little bit more about actual facts as they came to pass before granting a waiver because, to me, if we did this based on -- if we granted a waiver even limited to just this department or that department, it's still, to me, seems like it's based on hypothetical or speculation so to me that would be tantamount to saying this post-employment ban doesn't apply to a legislative aide or doesn't apply to a legislative aide who has worked for 10 months and i'm not sure that i'm prepared to do that, just to write it out, unless, you know, miss ing, a question for you is the actual -- is there a
question as to whether this applies to legislative aides? is that an open question at all? >> the one-year ban on communications with a former department, as far as it applies to -- i mean, for legislative aides, it applies to communications with all city departments, all city commissions, all city employees, all city officers. that is in the law itself. with respect to most other employees of other departments, for instance, employee with the ethics commission, the one-year ban would only apply to communications with the ethics commission to influence a governmental decision. but there is an exception carved out for the mayor, for the members of the board of supervisors and also for the legislative aides of the supervisors so it is in the law itself that the one-year ban applies to communications with all city departments.
commissioner liu: thank you. chairperson hur: any further questions for mr. selna? >> just a comment. my feeling is that you're presenting us with a problem that doesn't yet exist as the previous commissioner mentioned. this is all hypothetical. this legislation is not intended to prevent you from gaining employment and as someone who spent many, many years as a public affairs professional with many companies, there's no reason to think that you can't find a public affairs position and that doesn't necessarily mean that you will be interacting with the city and county of san francisco in any way whatsoever. so i think that to grant you a waiver prior to you having a position is really not something that we're prepared to do,
certainly i'm not. but if you should find a job where there is going to be a clear problem, then that would be the time to come back and ask for a waiver, if it's clear that it's a job where you do need to communicate sweat and that there are some areas that need to be carved out or we need to consider but the whole thing seems premature, as has been pointed out. chairperson hur: commissioner renee? commissioner renee: mr. selna, thanks for coming in tonight and i sympathize with your position. but when you cited, for example, the fort mason center as being an example, many of the things you said they would want you to do would not in any way be impacted by this ban, right? >> correct. commissioner renee: and your only concern is that that may
then ask you to do something that would be impacted by the ban, but why isn't that point to come to us and say, i've got this job, i'm doing these things, they've now asked me to communicate with the city agency, and i would like it have a waiver because what they're asking me to do i'm not going to be able to exert any undue influence beyond that any other citizen could do and then we could deal with it but -- and i guess i have a question of the staff or city attorney, has this commission ever given sort of a blanket waiver without a specific situation where the applicant is saying, i'm being asked to communicate and i want to now have a waiver? >> the answer to your question is no. the commission has never done that.
>> may i respond? commissioner renee: please do. >> i understand it's the case that the commission hasn't done this. this provision in the law wasn't in place -- wasn't put in place until 2007. so it's a newer provision to an existing law about a communication ban. previously, it was that the people who worked in departments or worked -- i'm not sure if legislative aides were included at all -- but the ban was on the department you specifically worked for and then it was added in 2007 that it applied to any department, commission anywhere in the city regardless if you had had any contact with them or anything so it's part of the reason possibly it's a broad ban has never happened that, provision didn't exist until 2007. the other thing is, i agree with you, and i'm happy to provide details when i have a specific contract opportunity in mind and
come back to you. what i tried to state at the outset was, i'm seeking work and while i understand there may be jobs out let it that don't require this and that they might be happy to wait for me to get a waiver, as i said at the start, i'm competing with a lot of people. it's a difficult job market. i'm competing with a lot of people for a small number of potential positions and to come to them with a limitation on what i can do makes all that more difficult to compete and given the context that i had worked for a legislative aide for all of 10 months and keeping in mind the level of connec peot city hall and other governmental environments, comparatively, i felt mine was so low and my experience was so limited that
you might consider a broad waiver. so, that's the reason i'm here. chairperson hur: commissioner studley? vice chair studley: . the advantage of going last is that other people have made many of the same points. i sympathize with the constraint on job searching. i agree with commissioner hayon and commissioner renee that most of what you described as within your examples were things that you could do or can find appropriate ways to do. you can provide background to people about your understanding of how things work within government if it doesn't involve your direct communication to government, for example. so much of what you're describing is possible. i've worked under post-government employment bans
myself and while they are limiting, they are not necessarily designed because of any particular person's access to a specific set of knowledge or a particular background on issues. it is really a public persneaption having been in those roles in general we may have access or opportunities to influence or that our calls will be taken more quickly or that we have friendships inside government that might allow us to behave in different ways and while the 10 months or six months or a year and a half might lead you to say, well, but on these facts, it seems more narrow and the rules shouldn't apply, i think that's not what the law asks us to do. so i agree with the quleegs have spoken -- colleagues who have
spoken about the idea that we would be much better able to act and i hope act in a timely way if you came before us with a specific set of circumstances, to go through the steps which i think are -- to grant a waiver that we have to prove that there could be undue influence but that it would be necessary to establish that there is not potential for undue influence and i realize you were very modestly trying to convey that to us but without being able to describe an agency or a type of communications, it was very hard to see how those facts might play out or how to balance the ban against a narrowly crafted protection and i'm not convinced that limiting it to the sheriff's office or even the sheriff's office and the board of supervisors itself would
satisfy the requirements in such an abstract situation. so, i would join the others who have spoken about not being comfortable acting under these circumstances. chairperson hur: mr. selna, i have a question for you. are you seeking contract work for many specific entities at the same time? are you trying to be a consultant with a number of different clients? or are you looking for -- such as the example with the fort mason center -- a full-time job or as full-time it can be for a short period of time? >> the fort mason center would be a contract job for a limited period of time. i don't know how long it would last. i'm doing what anybody would do when they're unemployed, i'm seeking employment to either get a full-time job or put together as many part-time jobs as i can
to pay my mortgage and my bills. whether that tuns -- turns out to be two projects or four, i have to meet my financial obligations and my needs so it's kind of an evolving process and ongoing process and i'm doing the things people do when they're looking for work. i'm talking to as many people as i can, i'm networking, i'm asking people if they know people who need help on things, i'm doing all those kinds of things. as you know, it's not as simple as there being a list of places for you to go and talk to people. i'm having to cultivate opportunities by networking and doing what anybody would do in my situation and trying to utilize whatever skills and background and knowledge you have so -- chairperson hur: i think i
understand your position. how far along are you in the fort mason process? is that still a viable option for you? >> yes, it is. chairperson hur: would it be helpful for you for us to discuss and evaluate whether there would be any conflict with respect to that particular job as you go along in the process? because it doesn't sound to me like you're going to have the streets get the sort of waiver you that are seeking but i think we're all sympathetic to your situation and certainly understand where you're coming from and want to be helpful but you are asking for something that is unprecedented and for which we just don't have the other side to evaluate against and i think if you came back, there are probably many jobs you could come back with for which you would receive a favorable reception and that's when your
limited experience, your arguments would be probably much more persuasive because then we would understand what the other side is. >> i understand that and i appreciate your challenge in this, as well. i really do. as i say, i would be happy to come back if something turns into a concrete need to communicate with a city department or commission or representative. i will come back. the struggle on my end is, while bills are pending and expenses are mounting, your commission meets once a month and so there's -- that, again, is not particularly convenient when you're seeking work. chairperson hur: we have in the past set specially set meetings in extreme circumstances and i think we've done it for an
employment waiver where time was of the essence. we don't set them as a matter of course but it is possible to get a specially set meeting in a very pressing situation. but certainly we understand. >> commissioner hur, i thought i understood you to be asking mr. selna if he would like to narrow his request to one that met the facts as he understands them for the fort mason position, recognizing that if it's not offered to you, that may be unnecessary, but at least to take that potential road block out of the way or let us consider that. am i going further than you meant in the. chairperson hur: i did ask whether that was something that would be helpful to mr. selna. i'm not sure how far along we can go in that. >> whether you would be to do it this evening?
i'm sorry. i didn't know that's what you were asking. yeah, i would more than welcome your input or a decision on that particular -- that matter, and i'm happy to provide you with more detail about it if you'd like to the extent that i know it and again, so, please, yeah, i'd be more than happy for you to do that. and i can answer whatever questions that i can answer that may be relevant to it. chairperson hur: i suggest we take public comment and then perhaps we'll invite you back up, mr. selna. >> thanks very much. i understand this is unprecedented and there are unknowns for you but i truly do believe, given the limited amount of time and limited contacts that i had, it's a unique situation. so i appreciate your time. i appreciate you considering it seriously and i understand the challenge you're confronting.
chairperson hur: thanks very much. >> good evening, commissioners, my name is joe boss, i'm a native of san francisco. i'm here because i saw rob selna's name on your agenda as i was perusing my favorite thing, city government. what i do for a living basically is strategy and outreach for businesses and developers, and it's really based on my activism in the neighborhood. i live in dog patch. i've been there for 28 years and worked many, many different projects, i've been on a lost task forces, the power plant task force for the board of supervisors or zero emotions task force for the mayor and i'm
kind of a go-to person for the neighborhood, successfully filing several different actions against muni because they march by their own drummer, not because i'm trying to cause the city duress. what i have found is, i probably get as many phone calls from supervisors or ledge aides or reporters, probably twice as many as i ever make to try to drive a point or discover something and i first met rob selna during -- while the city was fighting the power plant at patrarro, an expansion, and i've always found him to be the most straightforward and ethica